Medication and other methods for living a fuller, more active life.
We all experience aches and pains as we get older, but these issues can become chronic, especially for those over age 65. If you are caring for an aging parent or you are one yourself, you know very well that chronic pain can be an ongoing issue. According to The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, “…between 25% and 50% of community-dwelling elderly have important pain problems…Geriatric nursing home residents have an even higher prevalence of pain…between 45% and 80%.” The pain can be associated with arthritis and joint disorders, cancer, and many other chronic conditions.
Another issue with chronic pain is that it is often underreported or goes untreated. Many seniors may believe that pain is a natural part of aging, so they don’t seek treatment or feel there is nothing to be done about it. However, not seeking treatment impacts quality of life and has serious, secondary effects on overall physical and mental health. It can lead to depression, anxiety, isolation, impairment, immobility, and sleep problems.
There may also be a lack of understanding about pain management for geriatric patients in certain quarters of the medical community, as well as reluctance to prescribe medications due to fears of adverse reactions in older adults.
Assessing pain in seniors
In order to treat chronic pain in seniors, it is necessary to assess the level of discomfort. One good way is the 0-10 pain scale. It is used to measure the intensity of pain, with 0 being “no pain” and 10 being the “worst pain possible.” This rating system helps doctors get a more complete assessment of pain, including its severity and nature and how it may change over time.
Pain management methods
One method of treating chronic pain can be through the use of prescription medications, but it’s important to remember that older patients metabolize medications differently due to changes in kidney, liver, and blood flow function. It’s also important to identify the underlying cause of pain. Nociceptive pain is associated with the stimulation of nerve cells because of an injury or illness, while neuropathic pain is due to injury to the nerves themselves. The treatment methods for each type of pain is different, so what works for one type might be ineffective for the other.
Non-opioid analgesic and anti-inflammatory medications can be used to treat musculoskeletal pain. These medications include ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin and naproxen (Aleve). Opioid analgesics like codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone are becoming more acceptable in treating moderate to severe nociceptive pain, though these medications must be employed carefully and under the close direction of a physician, given their potential for addiction and other problems.
Pain management beyond prescriptions
There are alternatives to taking prescribed medications. Some of these methods may also be recommended by a physician in conjunction with medication therapy:
Cold Laser Therapy – Used to stimulate damaged tissue, promote healing, and decrease pain.
Cognitive behavioral therapy – A psychological intervention that may help reduce and alter the reaction to pain.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation(TENS) – Uses electrical impulses to stimulate nerves and relieve pain.
Massage therapy – Can help release tension and relax the muscles in affected areas.
Exercise and physical therapy – This may include weight training, stretching, walking, yoga, or Pilates. Exercise can also help with a variety of ailments. Simply being more physically active assists in overall function and health in seniors.
If you are concerned about chronic pain in yourself or your loved ones, don’t leave it untreated – speak to a doctor about ways to manage and reduce pain.
And if you are looking for home health care services in South Florida, whether hourly, daily, or overnight, give us a call anytime at 877-618-3624 or fill out our online contact form. Our home health aides have been providing the highest level of service and attention to clients in Broward, Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Indian River, and Martin Counties since 2000.